On February 11, 2017, President Peter Salovey announced that the name of Calhoun College would be changed to honor one of Yale’s most distinguished and influential graduates, Grace Murray Hopper ’30 M.A., ’34 Ph.D.
On August 29, 2015, in the midst of national conversations about the United States’ history of slavery, President Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway addressed the incoming freshman class about memorials on Yale’s campus—and, in particular, the name of Calhoun College, which had long been a source of debate and controversy in light of the white supremacist doctrine espoused by its namesake. Established in 1932, the college memorialized John C. Calhoun, a Yale Class of 1804 graduate, statesman, and political theorist, who, while serving as a member of the House of Representatives, senator, and vice president of the United States, was a prominent advocate for and defender of slavery.
As a part of a community-wide dialogue on the subject, Yale students, faculty, staff, and alumni produced thousands of messages on all sides of the naming/renaming question. A Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming, chaired by John Witt ’94 B.A., ’99 J.D., ’00 Ph.D., the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law and Professor of History—and comprising Yale faculty, students, staff, and alumni—was convened in August 2016. Its report, issued that fall, sets forth clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus.
Following the establishment of the university’s principles on renaming, President Salovey asked an ad-hoc group of three advisors—G. Leonard Baker ’64 B.A. (Calhoun College); John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History; and Jacqueline Goldsby, professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies, and chair of the Department of African American Studies—to assist in reviewing the Calhoun case. The Report of the Presidential Advisory Group on Renaming Calhoun College, completed in January 2017, found “no Witt Committee principles that weigh heavily against renaming,” “three committee principles that weigh heavily toward renaming, and a fourth that suggests the need to rename.” The advisors recommended unanimously that the name of Calhoun College be changed.
President Salovey has asked Jonathan Holloway (the dean of Yale College) and Julia Adams (the head of Calhoun College) to determine when the name change can best be put into effect for various purposes. They will communicate directly with Calhoun students, or others as appropriate. We expect the Hopper College name to be in full use by the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
Alumni will have the choice of identifying themselves proudly as a member of Calhoun College or of Hopper College. The professionals in Yale’s alumni records department will communicate with alumni about this decision when they are able to capture this information in our recordkeeping systems.
The university will not remove carvings or other physical representations of John C. Calhoun on campus, in keeping with the “obligation not to efface the history,” articulated by the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming—and will carry forward in its work with scholars, artists, and architects to determine how Yale will continue to remember Calhoun and the history of the college that bore his name for 86 years.